I need another drink. The lounge’s lights reach out after me, trailing behind in the reflective splashes of puddled precipitation, longing ghosts glowing out against the night. I force myself on, leaving the past to whither, knowing well it’ll never die. The address dispatch had for me isn’t far from here, an old Victorian building on Fascia Street, converted into one room studios, simple solutions for the young, single, and artistically inclined.
I announce my arrival with a sturdy knock, repocketing my fist after three raps. Best not to keep the shake in plain sight. I hadn’t noticed it at the lounge, but then again, I had no conscious control over my eyes. A women fitting the description answers the door. I ask for Sweet Potato and get no reply. I tell her I’m a cop, and ask her name. She introduces herself as Taeo Stewpot, her eyes shifting back inside. Says she’s busy and can only spare a little time. This isn’t my night.
I ask her if she knows a women by the name of Sweet Potato. She asks why? I tell her about the murder, explaining she might have some information that could help us catch the guy. Some spark of recognition ignites in her eye. Asks me to hold on a minute. Comes back holding some envelopes. Claims Sweet Potato was the tenant before her. Shows me a letter. Says she wishes she could be more help. But before I can ask anything else, she leaves me with the stack of mail and closes the door. For a second, I think I see her hesitate, but sounds of muted laughter from beyond her door erases that thought.
Another dead end reached, I reverse I head back to my place. I need to refuel my slowing brain. The bourbon feels like hours ago, its taste still ringing, but its buzz having long ago died. The Russet, Madam Crinkélcute, and Sweet Potato, a Bermuda love triangle. Everyone lost. One heartbroken. One dead. One missing. And me. Where do I fit into all of this?
I run back through the meeting at Fascia Street, my mental VCR scanning through the grain and noise, searching for inconsistencies. Her questioning doesn’t sit right with me. She’s holding something back. I can feel it. But what am I missing? With such a brief encounter, it all seems plausible but incomplete, road construction failing to fill a pothole. Taoe Stewpot… what are you hiding? I stare and drink, willing the truth forward, a séance for the cold trail. That’s when I look back at the pile of junk mail and it hits me, an epiphany in rhythm with the rising feel-good of a finished drink. That tricky bitch. I was an idiot for not noticing sooner.
Of course it felt like she was holding something back. Her entire existence is a lie. Taoe Stewpot, a name so rigid and forced, so unnatural, it could have only come from lie. It’s a pathetic attempt at a pseudonym, born in the desperate froth of an uncreative mind. A simple anagram. Taeo Stewpot… Sweet Potato.
I grab my coat. This time she’s mine.